|7:13 PM EDT||
Steny Hoyer, D-MD 5th
Mr. HOYER. I thank the chairman for yielding.
I want to thank the chairman. No one has worked harder to get us to this point in time in a bill that can be signed by the President and passed by the Senate. No one has worked harder than David Obey has on that objective, and he spent months at it. His staff has worked extraordinarily hard.
I also want to thank my counterpart, the minority leader Mr. Boehner who just spoke, and thank him for his efforts. This agreement would not have been reached without his leadership and his cooperation, and I appreciate that.
I also want to thank Mr. Lewis for his work on this effort as well.
Mr. Speaker, this supplemental appropriations legislation is the result, as has been said, of a bipartisan compromise that addresses critical needs of the American people.
Will every Member be happy with the substance of the two amendments that we are going to consider? The answer to that question is no.
Will every Member here get what he or she wants? Again, the answer is no. That is, after all, the legislative process.
However, our Nation is at war. We have 150,000 men and women in harm's way in Iraq and Afghanistan. Catastrophic floods continue to wreak havoc in Iowa and other States in the Midwest. And millions of our workers are struggling to make ends meet because they've lost their jobs through no fault of their own.
These two amendments that we will consider address these needs, as well as others.
The first amendment will provide funding for our troops on the battlefield in Iraq and Afghanistan. Each Member will decide how they should vote, and their vote should not be questioned on that particular amendment.
It is also important to note that the second amendment includes important policy provisions regarding the war in Iraq.
First, it prohibits military construction funds from being used to establish permanent bases in Iraq. We have addressed that previously in this House and overwhelmingly supported that proposition.
Secondly, it requires reconstruction aid for Iraq to be matched dollar-for-dollar by the Iraqi Government. With the price of oil being what it is, having been told by the administration that the oil in Iraq would pay for all reconstruction, that is a reasonable and appropriate requirement.
Additionally, the second amendment includes major legislative items that the White House has agreed to accept. That is a good sign that there is an opportunity to work together when the interests of the American people are at stake. We don't always do that. The American public is concerned about that and disappointed by that. But this night, we have come to such an agreement, and the American public can be pleased by that.
Among other things, this amendment expands the education benefits that veterans receive under the GI Bill to restore the promise of a full, 4-year college education, and allowing servicemembers to transfer educational benefits to their spouses and dependents. That was a bipartisan agreement. It's something that we can be pleased about as a country. It's something that we do, in fact, owe our veterans, and we will redeem that promise this night.
Thus, this legislation supports our troops not only when they're abroad but when they return home as well.
We know from our experience with the original GI Bill that this legislation will foster an educated workforce and a vibrant economy. The greatest generation, after all, not only defeated fascism--Charlie Rangel, at a later time, fought for our country in the field--but they also came home, that greatest generation, and built the greatest economy the world has seen. This bill will help in many ways redeem the promise for this generation of men and women who are asked to defend our country
and its freedom. It is the right thing to do. We will do it this night. [Page: H5669]
The President initially indicated his opposition to an extension of unemployment insurance. But this second amendment includes a 13-week extension for workers in every State who have exhausted their benefits. Again, the right thing to do.
The administration also had placed a moratorium on seven Medicaid regulations, the result of which would cut services for seniors, families, and those with disabilities. The administration, after conversation with both sides, has decided and agreed to a moratorium on six of the seven regulations. That's good for the States, but more importantly, it's good for those whom these dollars will help in a time of trouble. This provision has overwhelmingly been supported in this House previously, both
sides of the aisle, who voted for protecting the Medicaid safety net by a vote of 349-62. I am pleased the administration has joined us in the support of this effort.
The second amendment also includes critical disaster assistance in the wake of devastating tornadoes and floods, which all of us have seen on TV over the last few days, as well as funding to strengthen New Orleans' levees, as requested by the President, and housing vouchers for those left homeless by Hurricane Katrina.
I want to again commend Chairman Obey and Chairman Rangel. Chairman Rangel played a key role in getting us to this agreement, and I thank him for that.
I also again want to thank Minority Leader Boehner and Ranking Member Lewis for their leadership on this legislation.
Some will say this legislation is not perfect. To that extent, they can apply that to any piece of legislation that we consider, but this legislation is a good piece of legislation. It will provide for our troops in the field, while addressing critical priorities here at home. It will have my support, and I urge the support of this body for such amendment as they believe to be appropriate in the best interests of our country.